Thoughts on Legacy

I was asked the other day what I thought my creative legacy was. Never having been asked that question before, I was stumped for an answer. The next day, I found this excerpt from a novel which resonated for me as it relates to the question of one’s legacy:

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies. It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it, into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.”

~ from the novel Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

Artists I Like- J. M. W. Turner

I first became aware of the power of art when I was in my early twenties. Prior to that, I of course had seen art before, but I had never thought much about it. But when I started taking art and music history classes, I began to realize that a sculpture wasn’t just an inanimate 3D object, a building wasn’t just a form that provided shelter, a musical piece wasn’t just a bunch of notes strung together, and a painting wasn’t just a canvas with paint on it. The idea that an artwork could contain an entire universe of thought and meaning was a revelation to me, and I dove with great enthusiasm into exploring as many different types and eras of art as I could in order to learn more.

It’s been interesting to see which artists have risen to the top of my own personal list of favorites over the years. One of the painters who rocketed to the top and has stayed there is 19th Century English landscape painter and printmaker J. M. W. Turner. Looking at his seascapes, in particular, is like listening to a Beethoven symphony.

Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps

Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps

No one else used paint the way he did at that time. Very few painters saw and conveyed light in the way he did. His paintings exude energy and vibrancy- they are almost alive in their shimmering atmospheric presence. Many of his paintings contain historical references, both ancient and contemporary to his time, but in ways that are visually atypical for a 19th Century painter.

Rain, Steam and Speed: The Great Western Railway

Rain, Steam and Speed: The Great Western Railway

I have been thinking a lot about his work recently because a film, “Mr. Turner”, has come out that has Turner as its main character and which has been recommended to me by many friends. (Note to self: Put that on my list of films to see when it comes to town…)

The New York Times published a review of the film by critic A. O. Scott, the last three sentences of which perfectly sum up one of the reasons that I make art:

“By the end [of the film], we may not be able to summarize Turner’s life, explain his paintings or pass a midterm on British history. But we may find that our knowledge of all those things has deepened, and the compass by which we measure our own experience has grown wider. Only art can do that, and it may be all that art can do.”

And isn’t that amazing??!! That an art object can lead to that kind of self-knowledge??!! It’s that kind of knowledge that not only enriches us, but that can lead us to act, and therefore live more meaningful lives. Any artist whose work can do that for others is worth knowing about. And because your work has done that for me, I thank you, Mr. Turner.

Death on a Pale Horse

Death on a Pale Horse

Pinhole Photography Exhibition in Santa Fe, NM

For decades, Eric Renner and Nancy Spencer have not only run The Pinhole Resource, they have also collected thousands of pinhole photographs and pinhole cameras from around the world. The Pinhole Resource Collection was recently accessioned to the Palace of the Governor’s Photo Archives at the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe, and it is on exhibit at the museum until March, 2015.

Two of my photographs (see below) are included in the “Poetics of Light” exhibition, which I was fortunate enough to see earlier in the year.

Municipal War Memorial, Ypres, Belgium

Municipal War Memorial, Ypres, Belgium

Le Wettstein French Military Cemetery, France

Le Wettstein French Military Cemetery, France

Although I am well-aware of the wide-range of technical and aesthetic approaches to pinhole photography, I was completely blown away by this exhibit. It is educational, enlightening, and awe-inspiring. Beautifully presented, the 40 cameras and 225 photographs made me want to go out and use my pinhole cameras immediately, even though I didn’t have one with me. Interestingly, the show had the same effect on the three non-photographers I was with. We were all amazed at the range of possibilities this type of camera has.

I don’t know if this show will travel, but I hope it does. Anyone who is interested in photography, analog or digital, should have a chance to see it. Here is a brief article about it in the New Yorker magazine, which includes some of the images and cameras in the exhibit.

Below is a (somewhat blurry) picture of the section of the installation that my work is in, which gives you an idea of what the exhibition itself actually looked like. (The camera displayed below my images is the same make and model that I used for shooting the “Tears of Stone” project.)

If you find yourself in Santa Fe anytime between now and the end of March, check it out. It doesn’t matter if you are a (pinhole) photographer or not- it’s worth it, regardless!

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